1. Detroit Economic Club

    October 6, 2015

    (As prepared for delivery)

    Thank you so much for the invitation to speak with you today.

    It truly is an honor to be here.

    I especially want to give a shout out to the students who are with us today.

    You’re definitely in the right room with the right people if you’re interested in a job in Detroit after you graduate.

    This is my third trip to Detroit in the past week to celebrate economic opportunity.

    The level of excitement surrounding this great city is reaching new heights every day, and I am thrilled that the University of Michigan is right there with all of you in the thick of Detroit’s resurgence.

    As Governor Snyder said at Amazon’s expansion announcement here last week,

    Detroit has become “a place for people around the world. … It’s the place to be.”

    You have much to be proud of as a business community, and I have every expectation that the best is yet to come.

    Because virtually everyone I meet with in Detroit and — all across Michigan — is focused on the future.

    My commitment to you is that the University of Michigan will continue to work as hard as we can to foster the innovation and provide the human capital that will Power Michigan’s Future.

    Throughout history, Michigan has been a state that has produced ideas whose impact is virtually immeasurable.

    Big ideas born in the state of Michigan don’t just stay in Michigan. Michigan ideas benefit the world. They spark revolutions. They build industries and change the course of whole nations. They transform our way of life.

    History is full of examples: Paper in Kalamazoo. Breakfast cereal from the Kellogg Brothers. Furniture in Grand Rapids. And of course, the automobile right here in Detroit.

    It’s the ability to attract, educate, and retain the people who give birth to these ideas that is our greatest asset, and from my point of view, the greatest opportunity for the U-M. It’s the rising talent, and the companies who employ that talent, that we can leverage, together, to ensure our future.

    We have a major research initiative at U-M that has the potential to be the most transformative yet. And given our history as the automotive capital of the world, it is, quintessentially, Michigan.

    Right now, at a massive research facility in Ann Arbor, we are testing driverless cars and systems that allow motor vehicles to be fully autonomous and connected.

    These are cars that not only drive themselves but also communicate with the infrastructure around them.

    The initiative is called the Mobility Transformation Center, and its centerpiece is a 32-acre test track that simulates real-world conditions called M-City.

    M-City is so real that it has pedestrians that dart out into traffic, road construction zones — and potholes!

    The implications are enormous. 93 percent of fatal auto crashes in the United States are caused by driver error. Imagine if we could eliminate all of them.

    The benefits extend to efficiency as well. Each year in the Detroit Metro Area alone, more than 155 million hours are lost to traffic congestion, and nearly 74 million gallons of excess fuel are burned. The annual cost of those delays is estimated to be $3.5 billion.

    But what if human innovation could remove the human-caused reasons for those delays?

    We would add those dollars back to our bottom lines and subtract the harmful effects on our environment.

    The systems we are testing allow vehicles to communicate with traffic signals or sensors in the roads.

    So they will know which roads are backed up. Or which school is being let out and sending kids to the crosswalks. Or how many parking spaces are available in the Renaissance Center Garage.

    M-City is an example of the type of collaboration that I believe, will best power our future here in Michigan.

    The key to competitiveness is an approach based on collaboration for mutual benefit, where everyone shares responsibility.

    This is what we have done with M-City.

    Our partners include the local, state and federal governments, and a diverse list of industries, including auto manufacturers, technology, communications, insurance, and freight. In addition to engineers and scientists, we are involving U-M researchers in urban planning, public policy, and law – because of this project’s potential to change virtually every aspect of modern life.

    It represents what a top-tier research university can contribute.

    We can unite public interests and private investment to work together on a complex problem, for the good of all society. And we can produce the talent who will implement the solutions we invent.

    That’s why an important component of M-City is education.

    We are developing courses in many disciplines so our students can fill the shortage of personnel who can help develop and know how to use these technologies.

    Just as the work at M-City is likely to spawn new start-up businesses, the U-M engine of innovation has been productive across the board. We recently announced a record year for technology transfer activity at the University of Michigan. Our startups, patents, and option and license agreements were at all-time highs.

    And just last week, U-M was selected to lead a nationwide effort, a new think tank, to align advanced research in manufacturing with national R&D priorities. The initiative is called the Alliance for Manufacturing Foresight – or as we call it– M-Foresight. It includes federal support, and its partners are Fortune 500 companies in multiple sectors and top universities.

    Much of my work at the University of Michigan will be focused on how we can be an even more impactful driver of the Michigan and national economy, now and into the future.

    But I also aspire to reach higher and farther at the institutional level.

    I am looking for opportunities to bring university resources to bear on the biggest challenges and opportunities confronting modern society. The biggest problems we face as a society don’t conveniently set themselves up to be knocked down by one-source solutions. Problems don’t know what discipline they are supposed to fall under; they are just problems.

    We can bring to bear the intellectual power of 19 outstanding schools and colleges, with more than 100 programs that are ranked in the top 10, to approach problems from every angle and every perspective.

    There are terrific matches between U-M’s major research strengths, and Michigan’s economic sectors, such as technology, energy, water, medicine and the life sciences.

    We also have tremendous strengths in areas that are inseparable from economic opportunity and quality of life, like business, entrepreneurship, the arts, and public policy.

    Our sheer size gives us advantages and enhances our impact as well. The University of Michigan is the largest employer in our state, with over 45,000 employees. That includes our health system, which counts 2.1 million patient visits each year.

    And I can assure you that we will continue to work to attract the very best students from all communities in Michigan.

    Our three campuses graduated more than 17,000 students in the last academic year, including nearly 1,000 MBAs and 180 medical doctors

    Everywhere I go, I tell people that I am bullish about Detroit and the state of Michigan.

    Thanks to you, Michigan’s resurgence is just beginning. It’s because of your resilience, commitment, and passion for our state.

    Since the end of the great recession, we have put people back to work faster than any other state. We have seen stronger private sector investment in research, like with M-City. And partners like the Business Leaders for Michigan have helped us advocate for greater public investment in higher education.

    It’s an honor to lead the University of Michigan and to be member of the Detroit Economic Club. We share a passion for innovation, and I believe we have the strength to make Michigan once again, a powerful, global leader in economic prosperity.